Targeted social protection in a pastoralist economy: Case study from Kenya

S. A. Janzen, N. D. Jensen, A. G. Mude

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Social protection programmes are designed to help vulnerable populations including pastoralists maintain a basic level of well-being, manage risk, and cope with negative shocks. Theory suggests that differential targeting according to poverty status can increase the reach and effectiveness of budgeted social protection programmes. Chronically poor households benefit most from social protection designed to help them meet their basic needs and make vital investments necessary to graduate from poverty. Vulnerable non-destitute households benefit from protection against costly temporary shocks, but do not necessarily need regular assistance. Welfare gains occur when a comprehensive social protection programme considers the needs of both types of households. The authors use evidence-based understanding of poverty dynamics in the pastoralist-based economy of northern Kenya's arid and semi-arid lands as a case study to discuss and compare the observed impacts of two different social protection schemes on heterogeneous pastoralist households: a targeted, unconditional, cash-transfer programme designed to supportthe poorest, and an index-based livestock insurance programme, which acts as a productive 'safety net' to help stem a descent into poverty and increase resilience. Both types of social protection scheme have been shown to decrease poverty, improve food security and protect child health. However, the behavioural response for asset accumulation varies with the type of protection and the household's unique situation. Poor households that receive cash transfers retain and accumulate assets quickly. Insured households, who are typically vulnerable yet not destitute, protect existing herds and invest more in the livestock they already own. The authors argue that differential targeting increases programme efficiency, and discuss Kenya's current approach to implementing differentially targeted social protection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)587-596
Number of pages10
JournalOIE Revue Scientifique et Technique
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Cash transfer
  • Insurance
  • Pastoralism
  • Poverty dynamics
  • Poverty trap
  • Risk
  • Social protection.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology


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